The Saint Louis Zoo announced Tuesday it will celebrate International Polar Bear Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24 at McDonnell Polar Bear Point.
Although the official International Polar Bear Day falls on Feb. 27, carnivore keepers will offer keeper chats for visitors and enrichment activities for Kali (pronounced CULL-ee), the Zoo’s 5-year-old, 1,150-pound male polar bear three days early from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Visitors can learn about polar bears and their role in Alaska Native communities, take pictures at a selfie station and create their own bear-shaped pollinator seed paper to plant at home.
Zoo educators will also provide interactive activities to raise awareness and understanding of the impact our daily actions have on the Arctic and polar bears’ sea ice habitat.
Additionally, Zoo ALIVE (Active Leaders In Volunteer Education) teen volunteers will demonstrate the need for reducing plastic bag use to protect ocean animals and the environment at their #byetobags booth, according to a press release.
Over the last 30 years, scientists have documented a dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice, due to rising temperatures. Recent modeling of future sea ice trends predicts dramatic reductions in sea ice coverage over the next 50 to 100 years and the potential loss of all polar bears near the end of this century.
“We need to realize that all living things and ecosystems are interdependent and that ice is a necessity for polar bear survival,” Zoo Curator of Mammals/Carnivores Steve Bircher said in a statement.
Sea ice is essential to the bears to hunt seals on ice floes or near breath holes since they are not fast enough swimmers to catch seals in open water. They stalk and ambush their prey on that sea ice.
When fossil fuels like coal and gas are burned, rampant carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, creating a heat-trapping blanket effect. The blanket is getting thicker and heat cannot get out, which is causing the earth and oceans to warm and the ice to melt. Experts say if the rising ocean temperature trend continues, Arctic sea ice will continue to melt, threatening the very habitat that polar bears and many other species depend upon for survival.
Climate change affects the people who live with polar bears, too. The Saint Louis Zoo works closely with several Alaska Native villages to create video journals by people who have extensive, direct and relevant experience with polar bears and the effects of a changing climate and environment. The video journals can be seen at Polar Bear Point and on the Zoo’s website.
“While the bears’ situation is troubling, observing Polar Bear Day is a great opportunity to harness the love we all have for these animals by coming together to make a big difference for the bears,” Louise Bradshaw, Fred Saigh Director of Education at the Saint Louis Zoo, said in a statement.
Chosen as America’s Top Free Attraction and Best Zoo in USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, the Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal care and management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, the Zoo attracts more than 3,000,000 visitors a year.
The Zoo is a member of Polar Bears International’s Arctic Ambassador Center network, which includes more than 50 leading zoos, museums, science centers and aquariums. These centers educate the public about polar bears and climate change and play a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their communities. Polar Bears International is a nonprofit dedicated to the worldwide conservation of polar bears and their habitat through research, education, and action. Learn more at polarbearsinternational.org.
For more event information, visit stlzoo.org/polarbearday.